19 Great Image Plugins and Themes for WordPress

Handling images on your WordPress website can be a trying ordeal for those of us who aren't HTML experts. Sometimes one centimeter may as well be 1,000 miles. Even for pros, there are some unpredictable results that arise.

Perhaps you need to get something done quickly or you are looking to learn. Maybe you just need to achieve a certain result and you are looking for a way to do it. A good plugin can be a lifesaver that provides an elegant way to fix a problem. This is a list of mostly free plugins that can help you manage images in WordPress.

Create Slideshows With Images in WordPress

Slideshows have enjoyed considerable popularity even before the meteoric rise of the internet. Now instead of magic lanterns and viewmasters — it's iPads, cell phones, and digital projectors. There are some very well-written slideshow plugins for WordPress that you can use to create slideshows with little effort. A free plugin will do for many users. Paid versions of these plugins offer more advanced effects (video support, drag and drop editing, etc) as well as guaranteed support from the author.

Bear in mind that slider plugins can be resource heavy and slow down your site if you do not have adequate bandwidth. Performance optimization can help offset this.

  • Meta Slider: Meta Slider is a popular plugin that contains a collection of 4 different types of sliders, with unique configurations. If you browse the internet often you may have seen many similar sliders. There isn't anything fancy about the interface, but it is super easy to use and it works well. This lightweight plugin is will get the job done if you are looking to create a basic slider and want to make minor customizations.
  • Soliloquy Lite: this is the lite version of a paid plugin, it's another solid plugin for creating basic slides. You can quickly upload images and build slides. The user interface is nicer than the other free sliders, offering a bit smoother workflow. You get two slider types to choose from, and a handful of options to configure. The branding and ads for the upgrade are a little louder than meta sider, but it's not really obtrusive. Probably the most user friendly out of the free slider plugins on this list.
  • Cyclone Slider 2: another free and incredibly popular slider plugin for WordPress. Cyclone Slider 2 is standard and offers the same basic options for a simple slider. The plugin uses a template system that is especially developer friendly. It makes it easy for you to customize the look and behavior of your slideshows.

Featured Images, also known as Post Thumbnails, are one of the most exciting WordPress features. Themes and plugins can make use of Post Thumbnails to make it easy to add images to your website.

  • Quick Featured Images: ever want to bulk manage featured images on your posts or pages? It gives users an easy way to manage featured images. This is a good thing, especially if some of the users aren't the most tech saavy. A good example is if you wanted to use the same image for every blog post in a certain category.
  • Require Featured Image: a fast and easy way to require an image before it's published. Your layout may break or look less than impressive without a featured image. This plugin can help you avoid that problem. Users won't be able to publish unless they follow the requirements. It's like having your own personal slap chef to keep order on your website.

Adding Images to RSS Feeds

RSS services are useful for any website that wants to receive or deliver fresh content on a regular basis. RSS feeds are the preferred method of syndicating content on the internet. One thing many WordPress users want to do is attach an image to their RSS feeds. You can do so with tools like Feedzy RSS Feeds.

They allow you add a custom image adjacent to the text of the feed. These plugins are useful for anyone who has RSS feeds like Feedburner, Mailchimp RSS, Feedly, or any other RSS service. It's also helpful for email newsletters among other things. Here are two good options:

Image galleries are fun to build, but not to code for non-programmers. You can use the plugins below to create image galleries on your site easily.

  • Jetpack Tiled Galleries: this isn't a plugin, it's a module of Jetpack. But as a practical matter there isn't much difference between a module and a plugin This module of Jetpack allows you to display your image galleries in three different styles: a rectangular mosaic, a circular grid, and a square mosaic.
  • Huge-IT Gallery: this plugin is a good choice if you want to make a gallery of photographs. There are lots of configuration options and it's easy to implement via shortcode.
  • Gallery: this is a cool plugin for creating a minimal gallery of images. You can build galleries of clickable thumbnails that can be displayed in a slideshow. Noteworthy features include easy resizing, random display, lightbox view, a search box, and slideshow support.
  • jQuery Masonry Image Gallery: many times, people upgrade to a pro version when all they want is a masonry effect. This plugin allows you to quickly to add a masonry effect to your image galleries. This plugin can do it in a few seconds.
  • Envira Gallery: this is a paid plugin, but it is very powerful. This plugin developed into a comprehensive gallery tool over the years. It may be a good tool for a small to mid-sized ecommerce site or a portfolio. It comes with templates, a drag and drop builder, and plenty of addons. There are tons of features to play with and the provided support is strong.
  • WordPress Responsive Lightbox: there are lots of lightbox plugins to choose from and this is one of the best free ones. It automatically adds the lightbox effect to all of your WordPress galleries. Choose from several different effects. The code is easy to customize to modify the effects.

Image Optimization

Performance is generally a priority when you are working with images online. Below are some plugins for image optmization.

  • ShortPixel Image Optimizer: one of the main problems with using lots of images is the amount of disk space they take up. Larger files tend to be better quality, but they can slow down page load time. This means there has to be a tradeoff between file size and quality. ShortPixel is a good compression tool that you can use to optimize your images.
  • Image Lazy Load: you may be familiar with lazy loading from using apps like Facebook. With this plugin, images are only loaded if they are visible in the browser. This is a great plugin you can use to increase site performance by reducing unnecessary SQL executions.
  • Video Thumbnails: this plugin automatically displays video thumbnails in your theme. You can also use this plugin to prevent your theme from saving thumbnails, since some themes automatically save video thumbnails. It works well, but one thing you will want to keep an eye on is the size of the images it generates. You may want to further compress them.

WordPress Themes for Images

Websites vary drastically depending on the niche. But there's nothing new under the sun — chances are you can find a theme that has most, if not all of the features you need built in. This is nice if you can get it. Below are a few themes that offer packages for sites that focus on images (photography, designer portfolios, fashion, art, etc). They are conveniently bundled with everything you need.

Tip: try not to overload your site with features you don't need. This can effect your site's performance, especially on shared hosting plans

  • Infinite Photography: here is a barebones site built with photo bloggers in mind. Out-of-the-box it comes with a one page style design which features an image gallery on the front page with animated overlays and responsive content. It's ideal for a simple photography website for a professional or hobbyist. Check out the demo. A few noteworthy features include a replaceable logo and a sidebar or full width page layout.
  • Ronneby: this theme is a swiss army knife for any website that wants to put high quality images front and center stage. There are whole premade websites you can install with a single click. This theme has a collection of modules and plugins that make it easy for anyone to put up an elegant website with all the fixins without having to do much if any coding. It would work well for an online fashion store or a portfolio. A few noteworthy features include: a collection of plugins, an easy to use admin interface, tons of configuration options, and an elegant design.
  • Oshine: you can use Oshine to create a stylish portfolio or photography site with WordPress. It's touted as an "all-purpose theme," but it's particularly good for displaying images. It comes with a drag and drop page builder, slider plugins, fully designed demos, and a user-friendly admin section. A few noteable features include: multiple usage scenarios, stunning prebuilt layouts, and a modern design.

Adding Images to WordPress

While it might seem daunting to go beyond WordPress' prebuilt settings for adding images, these plugins should take a lot of the stress and guesswork out of the task. Happy site building!


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